Archive for the 'Parent-to-Parent' Category

So I brush her hair

brushing red hair

All of a sudden I find myself the mom of a tween. It happened in the blink of an eye. It seems like yesterday that princess dresses, tutus, and American Girl dolls were her focus; now I have a confident, responsible, independent 12-year-old girl who knows what she likes and doesn’t like. She practices with makeup, has her own sense of style, manages all of her school stuff on her own, and even does some cooking.

Sometimes I wonder if she even needs me anymore. As a mom, it’s sort of a weird place to be. I mean, I know she needs me and will for a long time, but it’s just different. We have a good relationship and are doing our best to navigate her transition to a young woman together, and I’m learning as I go.

About six months ago, I found myself really missing my girl — missing her needing me to take care of her the way she did when she was younger and not so self-sufficient. I know, I know, that may be a little irrational, but I had a moment. In my logical mind I know that this is a natural progression, but my mama-heart took over. She had just showered and was getting ready for bed, dressed in her bath robe with wet hair, and I looked up from reading and asked, “Would you like me to brush your hair?” She said yes and so I did. It felt good to do that for her, and it was nice to have some quiet time just the two of us to talk about whatever.

A few days later she asked me herself if I would do it, and since that time it’s something that has happened many times, and I love it. To think something I once took for granted — all the years of chasing her with a brush to get her wild, red hair tamed — now has become such a precious gift.

So if you, like me, have found yourself parenting a girl on the verge of becoming a young lady and you’re missing the “old days,” may I suggest that you brush her hair? It may be just the thing you are looking for to fill the void.

– Kelly Ryan, MSW, Parenting Program, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator

What I said to my child in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy

mom with arm around daughter

The original title of this article was “What to say to your child in the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas,” but then I realized that was a bit arrogant. I can’t tell you what to say to your child about this senseless act of madness. Every child is different and every family has their own views and values. However, I can tell you about the interaction I had with my child. I was inspired to write this because after we talked, my daughter walked away lighter, not darker. And after all, isn’t that the goal?

First of all, let me say that it is my belief that in an ideal world, children wouldn’t have to worry about mass shootings, natural disasters, scary diseases, or Mom and Dad’s financial woes. I think that kids should be kids, and not have to concern themselves with adult things. But that is not the world we live in. And contrary to what I’ve seen recently on social media and in news reports, that is not new. For example, when my Dad was a kid, he practiced hiding under his desk at school in the event of a nuclear attack. When I was a child, parents took their kids’ Halloween candy to the police station to be X-rayed looking for razor blades. The difference now is how ever-present the reports of that ugliness are. Social media and 24-hour cable news make shielding our kids from hearing about the frightening things in the world impossible. So we have to talk about it.

I also need to preface this conversation with a little information about my kid. I actually have three kids, but the older two are old enough that they process these events without a lot of help from me. My baby, however, still needs me. My youngest is a naïve, though intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive kid who takes everything to heart. That’s a tough thing to be in junior high under the best of circumstances, and Las Vegas did not present us with the best of circumstances.

The morning after the shooting: “Mom. About what happened. In Las Vegas. I don’t understand.”

I told her, “Of course you don’t. I don’t understand it. We are sane, rational, reasonable and caring people. We cannot possibly understand the actions of a madman. I wish I could explain to you why he did this, but I don’t think anyone is ever going to be able to explain it. There are bad people in the world, and sometimes they do bad things. Sometimes they do horrific things. But there’s something I want you to think about.

“Yesterday, one bad man did one very bad thing. But in response, hundreds of good people did amazing things. People in Las Vegas opened their homes and businesses to strangers so that they could shelter in safety. Other heroes put injured people in their cars to drive them to get medical help because there weren’t enough ambulances. People stood in line for five hours to donate blood to help the wounded. Policemen, fire fighters and other first responders ran into danger to get people out of danger. And total strangers threw themselves on top of nearby people to protect them from harm. And you know what? There were a lot more good people than that one bad man.” (Here she asked me why we don’t hear more about these stories on the news. I assured her that I did hear most of these stories on the news, I just had to look a little harder for them because bad news is click bait but that’s a discussion for another time). I continued with: “And furthermore, baby, regardless of what you’ve been hearing on the news lately not one of those heroes asked the religion, race or political leaning of the people they helped.

“So remember there is evil in this world, but there is far more good in it. And despite what some people are trying to make you believe, we are more alike than we are different, and there is far more that unites us than divides us.”

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program volunteer

“Leave me alone!” Life with a threenager

little girl pouting

My daughter, C, turned three over the summer. “Whew, we survived the terrible twos. It’s finally going to get easier,” I thought to myself. However, as C approached her third birthday, people starting throwing around this term at me: “threenager.”

“A what?” I asked.

“A threenager. You know, a 3-year-old teenager.”

“Uh, no. I’m not following.”

“It’s the like the terrible twos, but worse.”

“Worse?!” My heart sank.

I then started Googling “threenager.” Yep, it’s a thing. Apparently the terrible twos are just the start of toddler tantrumhood. Things really start to get interesting when our little one hit the 3-year mark.

In honor of this fun phase, here are a few of the threenagerisms I’ve encountered so far.

  1. Ms. Independent. While I applaud my little one for trying new things, I could do without the “I can do it myself!” snarls. (Then five seconds later, “Mama, Mama, help me, help me! HELP ME NOW!”)
  2. Highly illogical behavior. OK, tiny one, I kind of see your point when I ask you to put on your shoes and you reply, “No, they’re Crocs.” But when you yell at me because the french fries you’re eating are touching your teeth, I can’t help you.
  3. “Leave me alone!” At least once a day she blasts this exclamation to her father or me. It’s even more fun when she screams this in public accompanied by “Stop! Get away from me!” The looks, oh, the looks.
  4. Mom/Dad/anyone other than herself is always wrong. The other morning I praised C for sleeping in her own bed all night. She threw herself on the floor and screamed “No, I didn’t!” (See No. 2.)
  5. Constantly changing obsessions. TV. Underwear. Toys. Snacks. It doesn’t matter what it is, whatever she’s into, it’s intense and irregular. What she loves one day/hour/minute, disgusts her the next. Cue up Netflix to the show she’s watched for a week straight without consulting her first? Disaster. Attempt to put on the Paw Patrol pajamas she requested before bath time? Meltdown. I can’t keep up! (See No. 4.)

Fortunately, C hasn’t mastered the eye roll yet, but she’s well on her way to being seriously annoyed by the mere existence of her parents. I keep telling myself the threenager phase is good training for actual teenage angst.

Anne Hein is a past participant of the Beaumont Parenting Program, as well as a mom of a strong-willed toddler.

I’m bereft

mom, dad, son and daughter getting ready for school

First day of kindergarten send off

The day has come for my twins to start kindergarten and I’m not sure what to do with myself. I thought I’d be excited — no more paying for child care, someone else entertaining my kids for hours, the classroom parties, field trips and all the new friends.

I am excited about all that, but I can’t help but feel a tug of sadness.

You know what I’m most sad about? I know I won’t be allowed to put pigtails in my daughter’s hair soon. That my son won’t want shirts with firetrucks on them anymore. That their babyhood is officially over and the next phase is beginning and I can’t pump the brakes.

I’m terrified for my kids. What if they get made fun of? What if someone is mean to them? What if they get scared or confused and I’m not there to help them out? Five seems awfully young to have to start fending on your own. But then I think back recognizing that I was that 5-year-old and I did just fine. All those things I’m afraid of for my kids happened to me and I lived to tell the tale and they will, too.

But I also know that they’re going to start being exposed to meanness and cruelty and that’s just the way it goes. It still makes me sad, that stripping of innocence. I have to hope, though, that we’ve taught them well enough to make good choices, and if they don’t we have to be prepared to coach them through the consequences.

Parenting is tough.

Everyone has asked whether we kept them together or put them in separate classes. We decided to leave it up to the school to decide and we would object or concur as needed. Turns out, they’re in the same class.

I wanted to be able to prepare them for separation, so I emailed the principal about it. He convinced me that keeping them together would be a good introduction to school for them and it would be easier for us parents — same homework assignments (in kindergarten?!?!), same field trips, same class parties.

For now, I’ll keep trying to be excited for the fun things and take the other stuff as it comes. But I’m still mad at Father Time. What a jerk.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Back to school

kids getting on school bus

In the 1980s, the band Foreigner had a hit, “Feels Like the First Time,” which I believe was about going back to school after the summer off. It’s true; every year does feel like the first time. Even for experienced parents, every new school year brings a new array of questions, hopes, frustrations and expectations. And the forms, the endless forms! Doesn’t the school have this information already?

After many years of trying – and failing – to be the Parent on Top of Everything, I finally realized this: the key to surviving Going Back to School is simply to endure. Soldier on through the paperwork, supply shopping, and re-outfitting.

To make life a little easier on both yourself and your student, here are some helpful additional guidelines:

  • Write down dates as soon as you have them in your hot little hands. I promise dates will come in, thick and furious, a cascade of numbers and dashes. Many people use their phones for calendar-keeping but sometimes a simple paper planner is better for quickly jotting down important events and deadlines (and then you can add them to your phone later). Picture day, curriculum night, 5th grade camp, conferences, half-days, late starts. Write them all down now.
  • Do you have the deadline for ordering your child’s yearbook? It’s a firm deadline and one of those sneaky ones that you think you’ll remember or “get to later” and then it slips by. Write it down.
  • Forgot to schedule your child’s physical at the pediatrician in time for the fall session of sports? Many medical facilities offer sports physicals for reasonable rates. Look for one in your area.
  • Scrutinize your student’s forms carefully. You’ve already signed one form in two different places? Look again for that third spot hidden in 8-pt. font at the bottom of the form. Yes, that one. The one that you didn’t notice at all and now your lack of signature has resulted in your daughter not being able to receive her schedule or her locker. Not that I speak from experience.
  • Realize that all is not lost if your child didn’t get the desired teacher or classmates. This is a tough one, but it is a situation that most students face at some point in their academic journeys. Try to recognize it as an opportunity to explore the unknown – a chance to be a modern-day explorer, if you will. There are new people to be met everywhere … why not start now? That new best friend or adult mentor just might be waiting in the wings.
  • You found a great deal on tissue? Fantastic, buy some extra boxes for the classroom. And for yourself. This year will be over before you know it; you will find yourself weeping not only at the bittersweet experience of your child moving on, but at the thought of having to fill out more forms in the fall.

Here’s to an amazing 2017 – 2018 school year!

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and famous for narrowly missing deadlines.

Finding the Holy Grail of parenting: Date night

date ideas written on popsicle sticks

Cropped image. Personal Creations, Flickr. CC license.

There are some couples who are just good at it, and some who need a boost. I’m talking about date nights and nights out with grown-ups. No. Kids.

I have a friend who is really good at it. He and his wife schedule date nights once a month in advance. They usually try a new restaurant without their four kids and then run a few errands. My husband and I are horrible at it. I love the idea, but the mythical unicorn of “date night” hardly visits our marriage. I’m not sure if that unicorn even knows where we live.

When the opportunity does come our way, I’m all in though. To get myself motivated to plan a night out, I did some brainstorming about fun things to do without your shortys in tow.

Check out entertainment calendars. Try the Freep or MLive. They list special events at museums, concerts/music festivals, cultural events and more.

Try something different. The last time we went on a date, we tried mini golf. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. We were horrible! But it was a blast and totally out of the norm for us. Also consider indoor rock climbing (before adult beverages, please), a comedy show, go to the drive-in theater or a play, or attend one of the after-hours events at the zoo, Cranbrook Institute of Science or the Michigan Science Center.

If the scheduling gods are smiling on you and you actually make plans with other adults, first take a photo. It’s a rare event. Second, come up with something to do quickly so you don’t just end up camped out at the house of whoever sent their kids off to grandma’s house.

Consider:

  • Feather bowling
  • Normal bowling
  • A sporting event
  • Wine tasting/whiskey tasting
  • Casino
  • Museums
  • Visit Belle Isle and rent a paddle boat, kayak or bike
  • Preservation Detroit has excellent walking tours
  • Try an escape room
  • Trampoline park

Are you ready to plan a night out? Me, too. Where are you going?

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Our summer bucket list

boy and his little brother in a stroller

Hitting our local splash pad was one of our summer bucket list items.

Summer is my favorite season and for good reason: There’s warm weather and extra sunlight, which brings outdoor activities and longer hours in the day to do them. Plus, my child behaves so differently in the summer because he can run, climb, swim, jump and play to his heart’s desire.

My family loves a good summer and this year we decided to make a summer bucket list. To me, summer feels like a fleeting moment that I’m desperately trying to extend. The anticipation of summer seems to last forever whereas the actual moments of sunshine tend to fly by. Our summer to-do list highlights all the major activities we have been anxiously awaiting. It’s also a great launching point when my child complains of being bored; I can point to our list and ask which one of the activities he wants to do. Mondays aren’t so bad when you decide to cover the sidewalk in chalk or pull out the slip and slide!

To create our summer bucket list, we pulled out white paper and my son’s crayons then started brainstorming. No idea was too silly or small. See a movie outdoors? Sure. Eat something from our home garden? You bet. Have a camp out in the backyard? My son had so much fun! We tried to create a comprehensive list of all the things we wanted to do. The end game was not to simply “check off” items on our list, but instead just to put on paper the fun ideas we each had and then do things as a family.

Incorporating my 4-year-old taught me that his idea of a fun summer is different than mine. While I was focused on including big-ticket items such as family vacations, camping trips and get togethers, my child had amazingly simple ideas to include items like “have a staring contest” and “catch fireflies” on our list. What is better than catching fireflies on a summer night to a 4-year-old? The Babcock Summer Bucket List has been a huge success and I will definitely continue this tradition in the future!

boys with bucket list

My boys with the official bucket list.

Here are the items that got included our 2017 summer bucket list:

  • Go swimming at Nana and Papa’s pool
  • Play on the slip and slide
  • Take a trip up north to the cabin
  • Lay on a hammock
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a trip to the zoo
  • Get our faces painted
  • Go visit our local splash pad
  • Catch a frog
  • Camp in the backyard in the tent
  • Have a staring contest
  • Go horseback riding
  • Cover the sidewalk in chalk art
  • Take a family bike ride
  • Have a bonfire and s’mores
  • Catch fireflies
  • Climb a tree
  • See fireworks
  • Have a sleepover with the cousins
  • See an outdoor movie (at the drive-in or at the park)
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Go for a hike
  • Visit Michigan Adventure waterpark
  • Go fishing
  • Get covered in temporary tattoos
  • Have a hot dog
  • Eat something from our home garden
  • Go fruit picking
  • Visit Belle Isle Aquarium

Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two boys.


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